Just Trial and Error: Conversations on Consciousness
2010, UK, Alex Gabbay, 62 min.
Includes a post-screening discussion
Heather Knight, the creator of socially intelligent robot performances and sensor-based electronic art, engages with Dave Carmel from NYU's Center for Neural Science after a screening of the new film Just Trial and Error.
Heather Knight is an electrical engineer and social roboticist who runs Marilyn Monrobot in New York, where she and her cohort create "charismatic machine performances," as well as founding the world's first Robot Film Festival. Knight is currently conducting her doctoral research at the intersection of robotics and entertainment at Carnegie Mellon's Robotics Institute. Her previous work includes: robotics and instrumentation at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, interactive installations with Syyn Labs (including an award-winning Rube Goldberg Machine music video with OK GO), electrical engineering at Aldebaran Robotics, and she is an alumnus from the Personal Robots Group at the MIT Media Lab. Her installations have been featured at the Smithsonian-Cooper Hewitt Design Museum, TED, Pop!Tech, LACMA, SIGGRAPH and the Fortezza da Basso in Florence, Italy. She is also the Assistant Director of Robotics at Humanity+ and a fellow at the Hybrid Realities Institute and a National Science Foundation (NSF) Fellow.
Dave Carmel is International Brain Research Foundation Postdoctoral Fellow, at the Carrasco Lab in the Department of Psychology and Center for Neural Science, NYU. His current research follows psychophysical and neuroimaging investigations of the way top-down processes and divided attention influence visual sensitivity and subjective appearance.
About the Film
What do art and science have to say about consciousness? Perhaps no aspect of the mind is more familiar or more puzzling than consciousness – it is something that has defied definition. Yet our conscious experience of self and the world is what shapes us and our history.
In an attempt to understand consciousness, filmmaker Alex Gabbay invites sculptor Antony Gormley, eminent neuroscientists Prof Brian Butterworth and Dr. Beau Lotto and internet entrepreneur Twain Luu – whose study of the 'global brain' makes fascinating reading – to explore its meaning and how it affects their area of work.
Structured in a non-linear way, the four protagonists present insights on the human brain, global consciousness, the role of the internet, perception, the space art occupies, etc. While the subjects weave in and out of each other to create the arguments, each interviewee has his or her own narrative arc. Set against a lingering score by Wajid Yaseen and witty use of visual material, the film flows like ‘a stream of consciousness,’ unfolding its own narrative from captivating interviews.
Antony Gormley is Britain’s most prominent sculptor. Gormley is a Turner prize winner and the creator of the Angel of the North, Another Place, One Another on the Fourth Plinth, in London’s Trafalgar Square, among many others. According to Gormley, his work is more about metaphysics, perception and matters of consciousness than it is about art. Gormley’s work has been the subject of several BBC documentaries.
Dr. Beau Lotto is a perceptual neuroscientist. A reader in neuroscience and head of Lottolab in University College London, Dr. Lotto is doing ground-breaking work on perception by combining art and science to show how people literally 'make sense' and create meaning. Dr. Beau Lotto has contributed to programs on Channel 4, BBC, Discovery and National Geographic channels.
Professor Brian Butterworth is a cognitive neuroscientist. A highly esteemed British Professor of Cognitive Neuropsychology at University College London, Prof Butterworth's approach has been to explore how our innate sense of numbers contributes to our perception of the world and how numbers have been central to the evolution of human society.
Twain Luu is an internet entrepreneur, the founder of an internet company which develops qualitative and quantitative tools for the web, or the conscious web, wherein information can be more readily contextualized. According to Twain, Sir Tim Berners-Lee's constructs of the semantic web are incomplete. Its forms and structures of contextualization are still not sufficiently qualitative.